Good morning, cyberdocs: If you're in Illinois and you contract with First Health Group PPO, you might want to spend a little more time answering patients' E-mails. There's gold in that keyboard.First Health Group says it will soon begin to pay physicians $25 for each clinical E-mail conversation with a patient, when it's done over a special E-mail network it will soon install. Call it virtual disease management: The idea is to encourage members with chronic illnesses to stay in touch with their physicians, and thus prevent symptom flare-ups from becoming reasons to go to the hospital.
The PPO says it's the first MCO in the country to offer reimbursement for E-mail communication with patients. First Health Group is doing this with an eye strictly on hospitalization expenses; it doesn't expect office visits to decrease as a result.